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Transport / Not all passengers complying with face covering requirement on ferries, meeting hears

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

PASSENGERS not complying with the requirement to wear face coverings onboard NorthLink’s ferries “remains an issue”.

That is the view of Serco NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett, who raised the matter at a meeting of Shetland’s external forum on Wednesday.

He suggested the issue could be down to the length of the passage.

Passengers are asked to wear face coverings within the ferry terminals and onboard the vessel.

Serco NorthLink Ferries’ managing director Stuart Garrett.

Garrett said regarding those who refuse to wear face masks: “Perhaps they won’t be sailing with us”.

External transport forum chairman councillor Ryan Thomson said he was disappointed to hear that some people were not complying.

“I hope that it’s a vast minority of people and people pay heed to the government advice and the NHS advice around wearing face masks,” he said.

This is in contrast to what Loganair boss Jonathan Hinkles told the meeting, with compliance on flights said to be very good.

Garratt added that NorthLink passengers are being encouraged to download the Scottish Government’s new Test and Protect app.

Figures presented to the meeting also showed that while passenger numbers were down 65 per cent between January and August on the Lerwick to Aberdeen route as a result of lockdown, freight only dropped by 12 per cent.

Councillor Davie Sandison said it was a further confirmation of the “significant economic importance of the sector to Shetland”.

The meeting also heard that Transport Scotland is keen to start conversations with stakeholders on designs for possible replacement freight vessels “this side of the calendar year”.

It was confirmed last year that the Scottish Government has appointed naval architects to look at future design options for the freight vessels amid continued concern from key industries over capacity.

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Transport Scotland’s Chris Wilcock said there was a hope to establish a forum covering both Shetland and Orkney as the government agency engages on the matter.

It was also confirmed that the current Northern Isles ferry contract allows for Transport Scotland to charter an additional freight vessel if needed.

Transport Scotland also said it intends to undertake a full review of the general fares policy – including freight – through its islands connectivity plan, which is set to replace the current ferries plan.

The islands connectivity plan is set to map out the future of ferry services from 2023 onwards.

“This will allow for a holistic view of free across all services and networks,” a presentation from Northern Isles ferry service contract manager Paul Linhart-MacAskill said.

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